Richard and Jill

Adoptive parents Richard and Jill were struggling with daily life when they applied to the Adoption Support Fund.

The couple had adopted a sibling group of three children who were aged nine months, two and three at the time of the adoption. 

The children came from a background of acute neglect but as the years progressed it became clear that there were deep-rooted problems that had not been anticipated. 

The relationship between the siblings was very complex and all three children were given a diagnosis of ADHD. 

The oldest child showed many traits of autism and the middle child was dyspraxic.  All the children suffered from the effects of trauma and loss in their early lives and it became apparent that they had experienced more abuse than was first thought while in the care of their birth family and in utero. 

Richard and Jill attended numerous parenting classes and were referred to various health services over a period of many years but the needs of the children were not fully understood in the context of their adoption. 

When the chance came to apply to the Adoption Support Fund for therapy, the children were aged 10, 12 and 13. The youngest child was being home schooled as he found mainstream school too stressful to manage and the staff found it really hard to understand his needs. He had become so anxious that he could not leave the house unless he was going to a place he felt safe in and his mum or dad was with him. He also struggled with either of his parents leaving him, this could lead to a loss of any ability to manage his emotions and he became greatly distressed, and at times, very angry. 

As well as managing this very scary and stressful dynamic, Richard and Jill also had to manage complex and difficult behaviour from their two older children. The oldest child was not able to be left with his siblings unsupervised because of aggressive behaviour towards them, and the middle child was struggling to form any kind of positive peer relationships. All the children presented as much younger than their years and needed very high levels of attention and supervision to function. Both parents were spending nearly all their time in the family home with the children, making working really hard and any kind of social life impossible. It felt to the family there was no way to make this situation any better.  

An assessment of the family's support needs stated that a therapeutic assessment of all three children was required. The assessment was carried out by professionals specialising in the treatment of developmental trauma and attachment difficulties and concluded that a mixture of DDP, EMDR and Theraplay was needed for all three children with therapeutic parenting support for their parents. 

The therapy started with the youngest child, has now moved to the middle child, and will take place with the oldest child in the near future.

The youngest child in the family found the therapy to be really rewarding. He is now in school and was able to start secondary school with his peers after having two terms of home schooling. He has a group of friends and although he still finds some aspects of peer relationships difficult, he has made massive progress in this area. He is much less anxious and is able to take part in some activities. It is likely that he will need more therapy in the future but having specialist support given to the family has made a big difference in their day to day lives. Richard and Jill have been given confidence and feel more resilient. Being supported by therapists who understand their day to day struggles has been really beneficial to them.

The middle child is embracing the therapy that she is receiving. She loves having this time with her parents and her peer relationships are also progressing. Home life is still a challenge, but it is more settled and the siblings are more able to be around each other without physical altercations.  

Richard and Jill said: "The fund has made a significant difference as we are able to get support and advice from professionals who have experience and understanding of the effects of trauma, loss and severe neglect which these children suffered and how it permeates every part of their lives. It has meant that the children can have appropriate therapy that takes into account their difficulties in attachment. Having experienced professionals makes a very big difference."

A local authority spokesman said: "Having access to therapy from professionals with specialised knowledge and skills to meet the unique needs of adopted children has allowed this family to feel supported. The family have coped with circumstances that most families would find impossible and have met the needs of their children despite the huge challenges they have faced."


 * All names have been changed to protect the family's identity.